2023 NFL Draft Prospects Who Can Elevate Their Stock Before College Football Playoff

Alex BallentineNovember 26, 2022

2023 NFL Draft Prospects Who Can Elevate Their Stock Before College Football Playoff

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    C.J. Stroud faces his toughest test to date against Michigan on Saturday.
    AP Photo/Jay LaPrete, File

    Rivalry week and conference championships will shape the narrative of the 2022 college football season, and it's a safe bet that NFL decision-makers will watch closely in preparation for the 2023 NFL draft.

    Every game a prospect puts on film is important. Scouting departments and general managers make their evaluations on the totality of the film and what they believe the player can become.

    But the intangible aspect matters too—what a player does when the spotlight is the brightest and the competition is the best.

    With a plethora of big games set to go down over the next two weeks, scouts have plenty of opportunities to see prospects on the biggest stages of college football.

    These players could boost their stock with impressive performances Saturday and next weekend.

WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU

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    BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 22: Kayshon Boutte #7 of the LSU Tigers runs with the ball against the Mississippi Rebels during a game at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2022 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    The 2023 draft class will be yet another where wide receiver rankings are hotly contested.

    It's a talented class of pass-catchers, and Kayshon Boutte is right in the middle of that debate. The first iteration of the Bleacher Report big board had four receivers with a grade of 8.0 or higher: Jordan Addison of USC (8.4), Quentin Johnston of TCU (8.3), Jaxon Smith-Njigba of Ohio State (8.1) and Boutte (8.0).

    None will have a bigger stage to showcase their skills than Butte in the SEC Championship Game next weekend.

    LSU has punched its ticket to the championship game where it will meet Georgia in a matchup sure to draw a multitude of NFL scouts and front-office personnel.

    The two schools combine for 11 of the 100 spots on the big board.

    The individual battle scouts will follow most has to be when Boutte lines up against Georgia's Kelee Ringo. The cornerback is among the best in the draft class and will be looking to improve his own stock.

    The 6'0", 205-pound receiver will have to showcase his physicality and ability to win over bigger corners. Ringo stands at 6'2", 210 pounds, and has been a shutdown element of Georgia's vaunted defense all year.

    If Boutte can burn the Bulldogs, he'll make a statement that he should be considered ahead of his contemporaries.

TE Michael Mayer, Notre Dame

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    SOUTH BEND, INDIANA - NOVEMBER 19: Michael Mayer #87 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish runs for a first down in the first half against Jaiden Woodbey #9 of the Boston College Eagles at Notre Dame Stadium on November 19, 2022 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
    Quinn Harris/Getty Images

    Michael Mayer is one of the most productive tight ends in college football and appears headed toward a first-round selection in April.

    But he isn't without limitations. Tight ends typically require elite athleticism to be top-20 picks and make that kind of impact in the NFL.

    Mayer does not have elite speed. He's agile for his size and moves well enough, but it won't be surprising if his stock drops after he runs at the combine.

    He has to put as much elite play on film as possible, and his matchup against USC should provide him with a platform. Lincoln Riley's Trojans have the explosive offense to keep up with anyone, but the defense has plenty of weaknesses.

    Among those is their ineffectiveness at covering tight ends. Utah's Dalton Kincaid laid the groundwork for a big Mayer game last month with 16 receptions for 234 yards in a 43-42 win over the Trojans.

    Mayer has to show he can dominate as a receiver without elite speed. A huge game against the Trojans would strengthen his case to be a top-20 pick.

QB Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

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    South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) scrambles in the pocket during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)
    AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.

    Spencer Rattler's college career has done more harm than good to his draft stock. After coming out of high school as a 5-star prospect and throwing for 28 touchdowns to seven interceptions in his first season as a starter at Oklahoma, he looked like a surefire first-rounder.

    However, he eventually lost his starting job with the Sooners and transferred to South Carolina in hopes of a fresh start that could get him back on the NFL draft radar.

    For most of the 2022 season, Rattler has struggled with the same inconsistency and poor decision-making that torpedoed his draft stock at Oklahoma. That is, until his game against Tennessee last week that reminded everyone why he was so highly ranked coming out of high school.

    He completed 30 of 37 passes for 438 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions. He displayed the creativity, playmaking and quick release that he has when playing at his best without any of the baffling decision-making and errant throws.

    It was a step in the right direction, but Rattler still has plenty of ground to make up if he wants to get back in the Day 2 discussion as a prospect.

    A huge performance Saturday against the Clemson defense—which is 16th in the country in yards allowed per pass, 18th in sacks per game and has two first-round prospects up front in defensive tackle Bryan Bresee and pass-rusher Myles Murphy—could help.

CB Kelee Ringo, Georgia

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    Georgia defensive back Kelee Ringo during an NCAA football game on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022 in Columbia, Mo.(AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)
    AP Photo/Colin E. Braley

    The brewing battle between Kayshon Boutte and Kelee Ringo in the SEC Championship Game has already been mentioned, but it's a proving ground for Ringo too.

    At 6'2", 210 pounds, Ringo is a big corner, but that comes with questions about change of direction and the ability to stick with the NFL's more agile receivers. Boutte hasn't always put up big numbers, but his route running and quickness are strengths.

    The receiver has worked out of the slot and on the outside and has shown he can make plays after the catch.

    Ringo will get the opportunity to shut him down but will also see Malik Nabers. The sophomore isn't draft-eligible but will present similar problems as a 6'0", 195-pound receiver with excellent burst and change-of-direction skills.

    The Georgia defensive back has not allowed a touchdown this season, holding opposing passers to a 70.6 passer rating, per PFF.

    LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels has a passer rating of 148.1 heading into their Week 13 matchup against Texas A&M. Ringo and the Georgia secondary will see a solid quarterback with NFL receiver options, and it's a good chance for Ringo to continue to prove himself.

QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State

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    COLLEGE PARK, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 19: C.J. Stroud #7 of the Ohio State Buckeyes throws a pass against the Maryland Terrapins at SECU Stadium on November 19, 2022 in College Park, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
    G Fiume/Getty Images

    C.J. Stroud came into the season as one of the top-rated quarterbacks this year. He's done little to change that.

    But competition still remains between him and Alabama's Bryce Young for the top quarterback billing and the possibility of being the No. 1 pick.

    Stroud has the opportunity to separate himself and lock up that top spot. On the first edition of the Bleacher Report big board, Stroud came in at No. 7 overall and the top quarterback, but Bryce Young and Will Levis were Nos. 10 and 11, respectively.

    Levis is an interesting foil to Stroud. The Kentucky quarterback's stats pale in comparison to Stroud's gaudy numbers. The Wildcats aren't in the playoff hunt either, yet multiple NFL scouts told T.J. McCreight of The 33rd Team they viewed Levis as the top quarterback prospect in the class.

    “This [season] is an audition for him to go to a poor NFL team. He proved he can take a beating and keep getting up," one of the scouts told McCreight.

    The ability to deal with pressure in his face isn't something that Stroud has had to show often in his career. He's been sacked seven times this year and has a pair of future NFL tackles in Paris Johnson Jr. and Dawand Jones.

    The Michigan defense could change that, though. The Wolverines average 2.82 sacks per game, which is even better than last year's squad led by Aidan Hutchinson.

    If Stroud can lead Ohio State to a win over Michigan and show the ability to make plays outside of structure, it will be hard to argue against him being the top pick in the spring.

Edge Keion White, Georgia Tech

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    Georgia Tech defensive lineman Keion White (6) follows a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Central Florida, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
    AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

    Georgia Tech defensive lineman Keion White has improved his draft stock recently. The 6'5", 286-pound pass-rusher had three sacks in a 21-17 upset win over North Carolina last week.

    White did not make the top 100 prospects for Bleacher Report's initial big board, but he does appear in PFF's rankings right now as the No. 54 prospect.

    According to PFF's numbers, he has 27 hurries this season to go with his sevens sacks and has lined up everywhere from the B-Gap to outside the tackles.

    That kind of positional versatility combined with the ability to pressure the passer will make him a hot commodity. Now he gets an opportunity to showcase what he can do against the No. 1 team in the country.

    The Georgia offensive line is composed entirely of sophomores and juniors, many of whom should get selected in the next two drafts. They've paved the way for an offense that is eighth in yards per play.

    If White can continue his streak of disruptive play against them, it will go a long way toward boosting his stock.

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